Father of Fourteen Triumphs

Triumph is rarely instant. It often comes at the end of a period of patient endurance. This week my husband and I have joy. We saw the success of a long campaign as regards our children’s education.

We are celebrating all fourteen of our children having qualified with a degree from top universities in the United Kingdom. Our two youngest children just found out their results: Abraham got a 2: 1 degree in Chemistry from St Andrews and Angela got a 2:1 degree in Neuroscience from Edinburgh. We will be attending their graduations in June and July.

Psalm 128 says
“How joyful are those who fear the Lord — all who follow his ways!
You will enjoy the fruit of your labor. How joyful and prosperous you will be!
Your wife will be like a fruitful grapevine, flourishing within your home.
Your children will be like vigorous young olive trees as they sit around your table.
That is the Lord’s blessing for those who fear him.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭128:1-4‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I want to thank my husband. He chose to follow The Lord many years ago. Today almost forty years later I see the fruit of his choice back then. I am happy at his side and his children are successful. He has been faithful through many difficulties of family life in this generation when being a father is not honored.

Brendan chose to have as many children as God would give him. It has not been easy. One has had to be patient, endure, remain calm, pray in times of trouble and rejoice in times of joy.
An Arab taxi driver in Israel said to Brendan when he learned we had fourteen children, “You will go straight to heaven because it must be hell on earth.” A lady in Florida said “Oh your poor husband.” when I told her we had fourteen children.

I must admit I have not been as sympathetic with Brendan. But God sees Brendan’s heart and has been with him through many trials and temptations. He has strengthened him when the going got tough. But as the song says “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” I would not be alive unless he believed that God would heal me. I had fourth stage cancer and I would not be here to see my children graduate.

My dad was a pioneer in his day when there wasn’t much money. He wanted his eight girls and two sons to receive an education. We all attended grammar school. My sisters qualified as teachers and nurses. I graduated from the University of Ulster.

Brendan loved books from he was young. He would spend many hours in his local library. When he visited friends with his mother he would take down the books from the shelf and read while his mum chatted. His call to be a writer was developing back then.
He encouraged his children to do well in education. There was always books in our home and a desk in each of the children’s room to do their homework. We didn’t have a TV when our children were growing up. Those children developed a love of reading books. Brendan coached his children and inspired them to be high achievers. If they failed he helped them to get going again.

We were blessed to have good schools for our children to attend, in Coleraine and Downpatrick in Northern Ireland. So a big thank you for all those teachers who encouraged and took an interest in our children.

A big thank you to each of my children who endured the difficulties and temptations that university life brings your way. You succeeded. You endured to the end. I am proud of you.

Above all God blessed us all with health and strength to achieve this success.

“O clap your hands, all you people; shout unto God with the voice of triumph.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭47:1‬ ‭KJV‬‬

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Our Fourteen Children go to University

Our Fourteen Children go to University!

Angela is the youngest of our fourteen children.  Today she got her A level results, two A stars and two As and shares top of her year in Assumption Grammar, Ballynahinch, Northern Ireland.  Angela is going to Edinburgh university to study Neuroscience.  Now I can say all our fourteen children have succeeded in going on to university, two went to Aberdeen, Abertay Dundee, Edinburgh, Liverpool, L S E London, Oxford Brookes, Peterhouse Cambridge, three went to Queen’s Belfast, Strathclyde Glasgow, St Andrew’s, and  Ulster University.

In Northern Ireland we have an excellent education system which is free up to the age of eighteen.   Our children attended various schools, Coleraine Inst, Loreto College Coleraine, Dominican Portstewart,  Coleraine High, St Patrick’s  Downpatrick and Assumption, Ballynahinch.  They achieved good results at A level. Thanks to all the teachers out there in all the schools our children attended.  Thanks also to friends of our children and their parents who welcomed them into their homes, helped with lifts and encouraged them.  Thanks also to the praying community we are in touch with at home and abroad.  We would not have succeeded without you.

There is a song which goes “Mama, don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys.  Let them be lawyers and doctors and such”, sung by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson.  My husband Brendan and I did not plan to have a big family.  We were open to have children and God blessed us with fourteen!  It would have be too daunting task if we had know beforehand.  Each addition to the family fitted in and the other children helped with the younger ones.  Our children, who have left university, work in various fields.  We have a doctor, a lawyer, a midwife, community child nurse, an artist, a design engineer, managers in tourism and commerce and volunteers in the third world.

We laid down rules for our children and expected them to kept.  They enjoyed school and flourished at reading, writing and arithmetic.  Raising the younger half of the family has been a challenge as they have grown up in the world of computers and access to the internet.  Knowledge has increased and we have access to it through the media giving our young people many choices.  Brendan and I hope we have helped our children to make the right choices.

It was not always work and no play for our girls and boys.  They were never alone and could easily play together. Our children were involved in various sports and music.  I said, “You can attend as long as I do not have to give you a lift.”  Thankfully they could walto the rugby, soccer or gaelic playing fields.  Many trustworthy young men worked voluntarily as coaches in these sports.  Some of my children liked music. They got a bus to orchestra practice or they could go rowing on the river nearby.  Some American friends introduced us to skateboarding and rollerblading so our boys really enjoyed those activities.  There was a swimming pool nearby where they all learned to swim.

When I was in India I saw how mothers had someone to help with their children, as well as extended family at hand.  When I told our friends there, that Brendan and I worked with our children ourselves, they could not believe it.  In India, ordinary people have servants for cleaning, cooking and helping with children. They do not have to be excessively rich either.

We are not perfect parents, our children will vouch for that.  All children need to forgive parents and also I have learnt parents need to forgive their children.  Brendan and I hope for the goodness of God in the land of the living.  We have been through many troubles but God has been with us when we were weak.  I am glad to be alive today to celebrate my daughter’s success.

Angela

Getting to University

Tomorrow I am getting the cast off my left lower arm.

For over six weeks I have felt I am carrying around a heavy weight.

This has restricted me so much.  I have needed my husband and family’s help to dress and get washed.  This is humbling and keeps me dependant on others.  Others have had to do the cooking, shopping and housework.  Lucky me.  I have had an enforced rest.

I cannot drive so I cannot escape from the house if I wanted to.  I am learning to be patient and to ask for help.  Others in the family are learning patience as well.  It has been a good learning curve.  We are more forbearing with one another.

This accident happened at the beginning of June.  Normally my husband and I take a holiday in May, which refreshes us before the busy summer, when some of our children are back from university and our home is full again.

This year our fourteenth child, Angela, completed her secondary education and plans to go on to university in September.  We needed to be here with her to help her with university applications and to encourage her through her final A level exams.

Brendan and I have found this to be an important part of our work.  From last September Angela had to fill in forms to apply to university, write her cv, go to a formal, travel to interviews and make a video.  We have had to keep her focused when her studies became overwhelming. Then in the spring, expectation heightened as she waited to see if applications were successful.

Angela is a clever girl and had applied to do medicine at university.  In January Angela received a letter from one university to say she was unsuccessful in her application.  That was okay. There was hope that she would get accepted from the next one.

In May hopes were dashed when she got her final refusal.  Her dad and I helped keep her spirits up to focus on her final exams.  I remembered Winston Churchill’s words,  “Never, never give up”.  She could always take a year out and re apply.  I did not relish the thought of another year of ups and downs.  We prayed for her and trusted that the Lord would guide.

Many years ago when I had five children I read in Isaiah 54 v 13

“All your sons (and daughters) will be taught by the Lord, and great will be your children’s peace”.  I held on to that promise in the past for my other 13 children who have been successful to go on to third level education.  We had peace.

Angela was now able to reflect and ask herself the question, “Did she really want to do medicine”.  Were we as parents or her teachers putting expectations on her?  As we talked it became clear she did not want to do medicine!  It seemed the right thing for her to do.  Many are the plans in the mind of man but the Lord directs his path.  Getting the refusals lifted the pressure.

A few days later she received an offer from Edinburgh to do Neuroscience.  She was delighted.  She accepted this offer and hopes to go there in September if she gets suitable results.  I breathed a sigh of relief.  I felt as if I had given birth and was glad the pain was over.

Brendan, I and children are just back from a holiday in Kerry.  A friend had called to say a house was available in Kerry.  We were all in need of a holiday.  Tempers were short as pressures came when we were feeling weak.  We all crashed, slept long, ate good food, and enjoyed the sun on our bodies after a long cold winter.  I firmly believe holidays are not a luxury.  They are a necessity for body, soul and spirit to be refreshed.

My heart overflows with gratitude to God for his faithfulness to us these last thirty four years since I prayed to have a baby.  He has been with us to help us rear our fourteen children, to keep them healthy and give them good success.

Ref  New International Bible.